Growers are invited to find out more about a trial to grow organic oilseed rape in Scotland at a special event this month.
The trial is part of the Scottish Organic Canola (Scocan) project, which received a £30,000 grant from the Scottish Government’s Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF) this week.
Facilitated by SRUC, the project follows work between north-east animal feed firm Norvite and a group of Aberdeenshire growers looking at the potential of growing organic oilseed rape for crushing in Norvite’s Neos plant.
The animal feed firm has since gained certification to use its crushing facilities to produce oil for human use, and Germany is one of its main target markets.
As part of the Scocan project, farmers and researchers visited Sweden where around 10% of the oilseed rape grown is produced organically.
SRUC’s Dr Robin Walker said the project will now focus on testing different options for growing organic oilseed rape in Scotland, from establishing and fertilising the crop to the use of precision weed control.
“The securing of the KTIF funding provides a great opportunity to help facilitate and maintain a good dialogue between the various farmers and advisers who have taken on growing this novel organic crop, as well as other parties along the production and marketing chain interested in making this innovative crop a success,” said Dr Walker.
With guidance from agronomist Andy Cheetham from Ceres Agri Services, large plots of oilseed rape have been planted on five farms across the north-east of Scotland – one in Moray, three in Aberdeenshire and one in Angus.
Three of the farms will host demonstrations during the growing season to follow the progress of the crops, with the first planned for January 23 at Auchmacleddie, Strichen, Fraserburgh.
Dr Walker said the on-farm trials will offer the opportunity to compare several aspects of agronomy including varieties and those that can be applied later in the season, and pest, disease or weed control approaches permitted within organic management standards.
Norvite director and chairman of the Scottish Organic Producers Association Edward Smith said: “There is no documented evidence of organic canola currently being grown in Scotland and virtually none in the rest of the UK, so introducing this crop to Scotland is innovative.
“The Scocan project will link the whole supply chain from Scottish soils through to consumers, which includes both livestock and human use of the products, with potential to open up new markets.
“These include locally produced organic high protein cake for livestock, as well as oil, for example, for specialist poultry rations, or for human consumption.”
The event at Auchmacleddie will run from 12.30pm to 3.30pm.